Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
I worked with lots of start-ups in my previous role in technology transfer at Baylor College of Medicine and my first job out of college was at Lexicon Pharmaceuticals. Many the founders I met in these roles were people with scientific training who wanted to accelerate getting innovation to market to make the world better. TMCi Biodesign offered a pathway to entrepreneurship that had some of the “start-your-own business” risk mitigated and so I took a chance on myself and co-founded Bairitone Health with my teammates Britt Cross and Onur Kilic.
As a parent and spouse, did you have any hesitation in becoming an entrepreneur?
Yes – the adage is that entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week. A significant part of my week’s hours are spent parenting or otherwise maintaining a household along with my spouse. There’s the conflict of wanting to throw your whole self into entrepreneurship, but being a parent is part of that whole. I’ve found that there is room if you have a good team. Luckily, a lot of meetings that we would previously have needed to do in-person with investors and accelerators we are now able to do via Zoom. I’m not the only one, I’ve seen lots of parent-entrepreneurs benefitting from the ability to work and take meetings from anywhere.
Everyone comes into Biodesign with a superpower, how have you adapted your prior experience to help you excel as an entrepreneur?
In my prior experiences in PhD training and technology transfer I’ve developed a skill of managing a lot of projects while at the same time dealing with sometimes difficult people and some conflict. Both prior experiences also had me spending lots of time in a zone of discomfort where I need to learn a new skill “on the fly” to successfully achieve a goal.
You met your co-founders in the Biodesign program, what advice do you have for others building out their teams?
I think team cohesiveness is paramount. That doesn’t mean your team has to have the same background or have the same opinions. I think most important is to be able to share and explore ideas with your team without fear, and having this level of comfort is rooted in mutual respect. Grittiness and ability to operate outside of your comfort zone and openness to asking for outside-of-the-team help when needed is also critical. My advice is to avoid petty infighting and drama and people predisposed to those traits wherever possible.
Did you always have an interest in sleep apnea? Why sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea frequently accompanies growing population health problems – like heart disease, obesity, and depression. There are also disparities in treatment adherence in Black and Hispanic populations and underdiagnosis of women. The patient experience is circuitous, and for the 40-60% of people who fail front line treatment of CPAP it is hard to navigate healthcare systems to find solutions. Bairitone entered this space with an interest in making the patient experience easier to navigate so that more people can access the care they need. Bairitone’s first product will solve a specific diagnostic bottleneck in airway anatomy that we think we can help make sleep apnea care more personalized and streamlined. Ultimately, Bairitone endeavors to be a service company, for anyone who snores or has sleep apnea, to connect people to solutions that work and help them become healthier and happier.
What has been the most significant moment in your journey so far?
We received investment from Supermoon Capital, which is a San Francisco VC that specializes in investing in what’s next in sleep technology – what they call the “night market.” We think Supermoon Capital’s support affirms that the product and services we are building at Bairitone are worth building and have huge market potential.
How did that moment shift your thinking or strategy?
Working with Supermoon Capital has granted Bairitone access to a new set of mentors and potential investors and partners.